Zach Hill Zach HillFace Tat
There are people who get desperate when they’re unemployed and end up killing time by drinking beer until it makes them sick, and then there’s Zach Hill, who hasn’t taken a moment’s rest for years. That’s how unfair life is, but the legend of the drummer from Hella is back with “Face Tat”. After “Astrological Straits”, he has taken up his career again with another album oriented towards his schizophrenic concept of noise rock, sick electronica, and the sound tantrum appropriate for a sympathiser with hardcore crowds. He’s said in various interviews while he was making the album that the origin of these thirteen songs lies in an article that reached his hands, which stated that people with tattoos on their heads had the highest suicide rates—a hypothesis that he obviously doesn’t share. What isn’t clear after listening to “Face Tat” is whether Hill, more than driving us to suicide, is looking to get us to pull a Van Gogh and cut off an ear listening to a song like “Ex Ravers”, in which the hodgepodge sound loop, besides being deafening, prevents us from identifying what instruments he’s using.
The destruction and deformation of sound as a melodic emblem has been his religion throughout the time when he was collaborating with Prefuse 73, Marnie Stern, or lo-fi bands like Wavves –this is the reason for his obsession with blurry vocal parts, hidden behind effects. This dude is moving at another rhythm, marked by beats doped to a terrifying 380 bpm; for the time being, nobody has prescribed him a hefty dose of Bach flower remedies to calm him down. After this, you could get the idea that “Face Tat” is one of those albums that you have to place on the shelf next to the HEALTH ones, and you have to pace your listening if you don’t want to turn into a sociopath. But beyond the “accessible”—so to speak—songs like “Memo to the Moon” (with its conga of passing tropical stalactites) or “Second Life” (where Devendra Banhart does his cooperative bit by emulating the vocal harmonies of the Beach Boys), Hill’s second work is a collage of his musical obsessions marked by an arid, extremist punk personality. Here is precisely where Dean Spunt, from No Age, comes in, doubling on “The Sacto Smile” and the distorted “Total Recall”.
Searching for absurd parallels, “House of Hits” and “Burner in the Video” could perfectly well be the melodies that play on the Liars’ alarm clocks. But there is more. Hill has confessed that some of the sound effects recorded come from, among other sources, kicks at the screen of a computer, or the stealthy noise of urine falling on a pile of old issues of Rolling Stone (he has a subscription, in case you are interested in the details). It is impossible to identify those sounds over the course of the album—they might be in “Green Bricks” or “Gross Sales”, an experimental electronic piece that we would easily believe came from Aphex Twin, and which another dark horse of drumming, Greg Saunier from Deerhoof , collaborated on. “Face Tat” is a musical nightmare that is hard to digest, and isn’t for everyone. But in just over 40 minutes, it shows that Hill is capable of shaking the foundations of rock, destroying their essence, burning them up ruthlessly. You only have to see the cover.
Sergio del Amo